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Big Bright Blue Barack Delights McGee Ave.

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday October 16, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM
Artist Diana Hartman with her mural of Barack Obama on a McGee Avenue house on Wednesday.
By Richard Brenneman
Artist Diana Hartman with her mural of Barack Obama on a McGee Avenue house on Wednesday.

Tina Estes and Val Hammel first learned that two dozen or so Berkeley schoolchildren had stopped outside their McGee Avenue apartment Wednesday when they heard the “Ohhs.” 

“That’s Obama,” came one small voice, with assent quickly following. 

What had caught the eyes of the youngsters and their teachers was the bright blue face smiling beside the window that overlooks the street. 

There’s no doubt that the happy visage—soon to be accompanied by a blue hand making the thumbs up gesture on the north side of the window—belongs the man who all polls show may well become the next president of the United States. 

The excitement of the two apartment dwellers at 1649 McGee Ave. is evident in the ready smiles and enthusiastic tones that accompany their praise for their candidate. 

For artist Diana Hartman, painting the mural counts as her vote for the candidate, since she’s a Canadian citizen and can’t vote at the polls on Nov. 4. 

Because they’re renters, Estes and Hammel looked into Berkeley municipal codes before they acted, discovering that even tenants can paint their endorsements of a person or cause as long as the sign is taken down after the event and the sign consumes no more than an area totaling two feet by three feet. 

“But then we decided the temporary event is the 2012 election,” Hammel said, offering a mischievous smile. 

The next step in their plan was recruiting an artist, which they did by posting an ad on reading “Have Canvas, Need Artist,” said Estes. 

Hartman was one of many artists who responded, a New York graffiti artist who offered to pay his own way to California to create his work. They chose Hartman and they’re delighted with the result. The artist, who lives in Sunnyvale, has even been house-sitting to care for their cat. 

“We’re hoping we can find other people who would like her to work on their houses or apartments,” said Estes. 

“It’s my first mural, and I’d love to do more,” said Hartman, who can be reached by email at 

The bright blue Barack was drawing lots of attention from pedestrians during a reporter’s brief visit Wednesday afternoon, and even won a horn salute from a passing Model A.